February 13, 2009
A short history of the Paris Commune
As the title suggests, `A Short History of the Paris Commune` is a roughly 75 page history of the 1871 Paris Commune uprising. If you've read about it already in a history survey but want to know more, without committing to a 500 page tomb, this is a good middle ground freely available. The Wikipedia article is also good for a quick overview.
Ernest Belfort Bax was a well known 19th century Socialist (SDF) and takes an unapologetic defense of the insurgents, and for that reason the book is worth reading to get a 19th centuries revolutionaries perspective (although he was not there). He even includes recommendations for future uprisings, in case one is looking for ideas :) He mostly keeps to the order of events and is a dramatic "novelistic" writer, in particular the climatic "Week of Blood". It's not difficult reading once the flow of events get started.
To really understand 1871 one can approach it a number of ways: first-hand witness accounts; accounts written within 20 years by Socialists, Republicans and other contemporary observers; and modern histories. This book falls into the second category. Given how many factions were involved there seems an endless number of ways to read about it. There are even a bunch of fictional treatments out there - just too bad Zola didn't write more about it beyond the ending of `La Débâcle`.
[STB Feb 10 2009 117]